Starting With Why – Simon Sinek

start-with-why150I came late to Simon Sinek. The facts that this, his first book, was first published in 2009, and the TED talk (How Great Leaders Inspire Action) received nearly 37 million views, passed me by until a friend mentioned him back in the autumn, and then my sister bought me the book for Christmas.

Let’s get my chief gripe out of the road first. Simon, your go-to example for nearly everything you say can’t always be Apple. Yes, Apple have a wonderful business model, etc. etc. but please… broaden out your ideas! I didn’t count, but it felt like about a third of the book focussed on Apple. The worst part being that I don’t agree with Sinek’s basic assumption:

“There is no difference between an Apple customer and an Apple employee. One believes in Apple’s WHY and chooses to work for the company, and the other believes in Apple’s WHY and chooses to buy its products.”

As I type, I’m using a mac book. I bought it because it warms up much faster than a laptop, and it will probably last longer too. Apparently, Apple stands for rebellion and the spirit of the individual. News to me, but hey, maybe things were different back in 2008 when Sinek was writing this.

That said, this is key book to read if you’re interested in the base that an organisation works from. Sinek is very clear sighted in his thinking. An organisation starts with a value -a reason to do something. In turn, this dictates how something is done, and what actually happens. Over time, the reason for the organisation can get lost in the pace of what is happening, and cracks start to show.

“Imagine if every organisation started with why. Decisions would be simpler. Loyalties would be greater. Trust would be common currency. If our leaders were diligent about starting with why, optimism would reign, and innovation would thrive.”

Ok, I think he oversells it a little here, but he definitely has a point. In an age of hyperactivity, knowing what you or your organisation is about is foundational to deciding where your energies are best spent, and what you let fall.

Knowing your why, also brings meaning to a job. Sinek uses the analogy of two stone masons. One is bored by the monotony of the work, the other is excited because he is building part of a cathedral.

“One has a sense of purpose… Simply having a sense of why changes his entire view of the job. It makes him more productive and certainly more loyal.”

In an age when so many people feel ragged and weary in the work place, this is worth thinking about; how do leaders communicate the why?

Skim through the adoration of Apple, there’s still plenty there to think about.

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